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I got an audiobook to play on my MP3 player today, and it was a chore and a half with around 5 hours worth of upgrades. I could write a post about the procedure, but that's been done.

Brad Colbow's comic pretty much sums up the DRM problem best, I think. Getting DRM-protected content sucks, but libraries often have such systems in place to allow lending. I hate DRM, but I like my library, and I really like the idea of libraries being able to lend electronic content in a way that makes sense.

What I want to know is "what we are doing about it?" I know plenty of folk interested in open technology/culture... do any of you know of alternative software available to libraries? Resources they could use that would be more awesome and still enable lending?

(Related reading: Across the Digital Divide talks about why the whole "print is dead" thing leaves a lot of people in the dust. If you think about it in that context, making it easier to lend electronic resources in the future could be a bigger deal than you'd think.)

Usually I see people recommend you donate to the EFF or somesuch. And that's a good idea in general, but... I mean, I know I'd like to just have a world that was DRM-free. But apparently this is not a solution that works for my library, or more to the point it's not a solution that works for the places where my library obtains content. I want DRM to be dead, but I also would like to be able to borrow electronic resources a little sooner than never, thanks. Surely there are folk out there who are willing to sideline the ideology for now and just try to make something that's actually good?

So... what *are* we doing to make it easier for libraries to lend us electronic stuff?
terriko: (Default)
Yet another crosspost. Been a little while for the security blog, but there's always neat stuff coming out of ACM CCS. I expect I'll hear more about it when I head in to work this week.

Change is Easy
Originally uploaded by dawn_perry

I've heard a lot of arguments as to why expiring passwords likely won't help. Here's a few:

  • It's easy to install malware on a machine, so the new password will be sniffed just like the old.
  • It costs more: frequent password changes result in more forgotten passwords and support desk calls.
  • It irritates users, who will then feel less motivated to implement to other security measures.
  • Constantly forcing people to think of new, memorable passwords leads to cognitive shortcuts like password-Sep, password-Oct, password-Nov...

And yet, many organizations continue to force regular password changes in order to improve security. But what if that's not what's really happening? Three researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have unveiled what they claim to be the first large-scale study on password expiration, and they found it wanting.

(Read the rest here.)
terriko: (Default)
The excellent [personal profile] damned_colonial invited me to participate in the new Geek Feminism blog and it's been a ball thus far. You mean I get more excuse to interact with smart, sassy, feminist folk? Sign me up!

I haven't quite decided how to cross-post or whatever, so I'll give you a teaser here for one of my posts, entitled An “ass” out of “u” and “me”:

I’m off-white, so I’m used to people assuming rather strange things about me. The big one I am forever explaining is that no, I really am Canadian. Yes, that’s where I’m really from. That’s where my ancestors are from too.

But the weirdest assumption I ever encountered was that because I was a girl, I would somehow know something about computer usability.

(Read the rest here)

Also from me was a straight up cross-post of my entry about my good experience at PAX (and my bad experiences elsewhere), and a remix entitled Want more women in open source? Try paying them..

Perhaps the funniest thing I've seen going is the comment thread on Where are all the men bloggers? For those who aren't familiar with the sort of comment threads women have to wade through regularly on any post mentioning women in blogging/fandom/tech/politics/etc, most of the comments in there are basically stuff we've heard before with the genders reversed. It's both hilarious and offensive depending upon how you read it, as much satire is.

Go visit Geek Feminism for more interesting stuff. And those of you on dreamwidth can subscribe to [syndicated profile] geekfeminism_feed too.
terriko: (Default)
In the course of doing some thesis research, I stumbled across this fascinating paper in aesthetics and usability.

I'm not sure I've ever read a paper where the researcher seems so thoroughly flummoxed by his/her results.

The idea of the study was to test whether objects rated as more beautiful would also be rated as more functional. The author, I suspect, found this idea faintly ridiculous, but previous work in Japan had shown that people did indeed rate prettier banking machine interfaces as more usable. He suspected that perhaps this was just an effect related to Japan and its "culture is known for its aesthetic tradition." He would repeat the study in Israel, where the culture has a stronger emphasis on action over form. Surely, he thought, the practical Israeli people would not be as affected by aesthetics.

But what happened? "Unexpectedly high correlations" The author says, "usability and aesthetics were not expected to correlate in Israel" but they did. Oh, they did.

Even though I'd not read this paper until this week, it's something I'd noticed in doing basic testing of my web projects (back when I made more of a living writing web code rather than deconstructing and mocking... errr... inspecting its security). I used to test designs on clients, friends and invariably, I'd get more positive results (and useful!) feedback if I spent the bit of extra time to make the first draft look clean, if still aesthetically simple. Pretty matters.

It's kinda nice to have a couple of scientific papers to back up one's gut feelings, eh?

Want more than a gut instinct to explain why attractive things work better? Don Norman suggests an answer in his book, Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things. (I noticed it when seeing who had referred to this study and am working my through it. Research is fun!)

The theory goes like this: pretty things change your emotions in a positive way, make you happy, less stressed. Your emotional state changes your perceptions and ability to work. When you are happier, you often find things easier to use. Thus, pretty things are easier to use. And ugly things make you more easily annoyed, stressed out. Stress makes you perform poorly. Thus, ugly things are harder to use.

And in honour of the new Star Trek movie, I'll finish with a single word:



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